Vegetarianism that we feature this week for the World Vegetarian Day, which actually takes place today, is often synonymous with peace and coexistence.
But there is yet another conflict raging in the Middle East. The one about the origin of falafel.
I could just as well have attributed this recipe to Lebanese, Syrians, Israelis, Jordanians or Palestinians. Indeed, falafels are an ancestral recipe whose origin remains highly contested. The less disputed origin goes back to the Copts (Christians of Egypt) who used to eat falafel during Lent, period during which it is forbidden to eat meat. Moreover, the word falafel comes from pha la phel (Φα Λα Φελ) which means “of more beans.” Other versions attribute this recipe to the Pharaonic Era of Egypt and even India.
While falafels as we know them today around the glove are exclusively made from chickpeas, original falafels, those from Egypt, are made with fava beans. In fact, the original name of this dish is ta’amiya. This recipe was supposedly initially exported via the port of Alexandria to northern Levant, and it eventually spread across the Middle East.
This dish is now considered the national dish of Israel, even if it was not invented in the Holy Land.
Falafels can be served on a plate or in a pita sandwich. They are usually accompanied by hummus, tahini, pickled vegetables (like turnips), but also diced cucumber and tomato salad, red cabbage or fried eggplant to name a few standard sides.
I make falafel quite regularly but I have always used the ready preparations until today. For today’s occasion, I have not only tried to make falafel but also Egyptian ta’amiya.
The most important parts of the recipe is the spiced mixture which combines various aromas from the fresh herbs (parsley and cilantro), the spices (coriander and cumin) but also the garlic. For those of you who have already had the opportunity to taste falafels in the Middle East, this mixture of flavors automatically transports you to the middle of the souk!
My wife Anne was at a work dinner tonight. I had a wonderful dinner with my three little monsters who just loved these small vegetarian fritters! No more boxed falafel dry mix!
Recipe for Falafels or Ta’amiyas
Preparation time: 15 minutes
Rest time: 8 hours
Cooking time: 10 minutes
Ingredients (for 30 to 40 falafels or ta’amiyas)
- 1 lb dried chickpeas (for falafel) or dried fava beans (for ta’amiya)
2 scallions (for ta’amiya)
1/2 bunch fresh dill (for ta’amiya)
1 bunch parsley
1 bunch cilantro
6 cloves of garlic
1 teaspoon baking soda
2 teaspoons salt
2 tablespoons ground cumin
1 teaspoon ground coriander
1 tablespoon flour (or more if necessary)
1/4 teaspoon cayenne pepper (optional)
3 tablespoons sesame seeds (for ta’amiya)
Neutral oil for frying
Soak the dried chickpeas (or dried fava beans) overnight (or at least for 8 hours) in a large bowl filled with water.
The next day, drain the chickpeas (or fava beans) and mix in food processor until smooth.
Transfer to a large bowl.
In the same food processor, combine the onion, garlic, parsley, cilantro and dill and scallions for ta’amiyas.
Pulse until you obtain a paste.
Add this mixture to the chickpeas (or fava beans) and mix with a spatula.
Add cumin, coriander, cayenne, salt, pepper and flour and mix well. If dough is too soft, add more flour, a teaspoon at a time, until firm enough to form balls.
Add baking soda just before frying. Mix well.
Heat a large pan with vegetable oil and bring to about 350 F.
Make small balls about the size of a ping pong ball.
For ta’amiyas, slightly press the balls on both sides and dip in the sesame seeds (optional).
Gently place the balls in hot oil without overloading the pan.
Fry until one side is golden brown, about 4 to 5 minutes. Then turn over and fry on the other side for another 1 to 2 minutes.
Take out of the oil with a slotted spoon and place on paper towels.
Falafels (or ta’amiyas) should be crisp on the outside and soft inside.
Serve hot or warm in a plate or in a pita with various salads and condiments.